Who cares what it looks like? Airbnb's new logo is pure genius

Airbnb says the "Belo" is about love and belonging. Everybody else is reminded of human genitalia. Win!

Published July 16, 2014 7:07PM (EDT)

At 10:42 Pacific time I received an email titled: "Andrew: Airbnb Rebrand/Redesign."

But I did not open the email, because, as a general rule, my interest in commenting on, or even thinking about, rebranding campaigns is so negligible as to not even be measurable on a subatomic scale.

I now regret this lapse in journalistic due diligence, because if I had taken the time to examine the email, I would have had a chance to react naturally to Airbnb's new logo, the "Belo," with an aesthetic appreciation unsullied by the uproar that exploded on Twitter nanoseconds after the rebranding campaign launch.

Now I will never know whether I would have seen a vagina, a man's pair of balls, a woman's breasts, a spaceship, or, as Julia Carrie Wong suggested, a "Trojan horse for an imperialist stance towards urban neighborhoods."

This makes me sad. Truly, Gizmodo was on the money when it called the new logo "the sexual Rorschach test for our time." But how do I swing? I am baffled. Social media pollution is a disaster for the critical sensibility.

In a video released to accompany the rebranding, Airbnb explains that the "Belo" is a "symbol of belonging" that "represents all of us" and stands for four things: "people," "places," "love" and "airbnb." But, alas, I can't see any of that, now that Twitter's obscene clamor has filled my head.

Here's what I do know. If Airbnb's goal was to get people talking about Airbnb, then this campaign is pure genius, and can only be considered a massive success. I'm also old enough to remember that the debut of the "iPad" inspired a zillion menstruation and Tampon jokes that did not make any difference whatsoever to the iPad's market success. The sheer velocity of the snarking is a sign that Airbnb, like Apple, plays an important role in our emerging culture. We belong in Airbnb's world, whether we want to or not.

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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Airbnb Belo Logo Rebranding Sharing Economy Video